Online course-builder extraordinaire Jacques Hopkins tells us what inspired him to teach the piano online and how he built it into a business which enabled him to quit his job.
Jacques Hopkins of Piano In 21 Days and The Online Course Guy
Facebook: Piano In 21 Days
YouTube: Piano In 21 Days
Jacques Hopkins was stuck in the 9-to-5 hamster wheel for 8 years and tried starting many different businesses to help him break free from traditional employment. It wasn’t until he made an online course based on his biggest passion that he became successful and was able to quit his job.
Now, Jacques makes more from his online course than he did as a full-time engineer, and only works on it one or two hours a week.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- What entrepreneurship can do for you but why it needs to be a fit for you
- Making a business out of whatever you turn to when you’re supposed to be working
- Why you shouldn’t be afraid to fail at something
- The power of positive feedback
- Why when considering any change it’s worth considering the realistic best and worst case scenarios
- Different ways you can earn money online
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
- Book: The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris
- Podcast: Smart Passive Income
- Course: Steve Nixon, Jazz Piano
- Online course platforms: Thinkific, Kajabi, Teachable, ClickFunnels
- Email provider: ActiveCampaign
- Integration software: Zapier
- Online course teachers: Danielle Leslie, Dan Henry, David Siteman Garland, Amy Porterfield
- Book: Expert Secrets, Russell Brunson
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 28: Quitting a job to earn passive income: how teaching piano became a seven figure business - with Jacques Hopkins of Piano In 21 Days
Jeremy Cline 0:00
How does earning a comfortable living on two hours work a week sound to you? Too good to be true perhaps? Well, today's guest has done just that. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. You've probably heard of people who make a living through their blog, YouTube channel, Instagram, so on and wondered, really? Can you actually make money from that? For me, my guest today falls into that category. But he's actually going to tell us how he did it. Jacques Hopkins is the founder of Piano in 21 Days, which is an online course where he teaches people to play piano in Well, yeah, you've guessed it - 21 days - and it's been so successful that he's actually been able to quit his full time job and set it up so literally he only has to work a couple of hours a week on it. Here's the interview with Jacques. Hi Jacques, welcome to the show.
Jacques Hopkins 1:09
Hey Jeremy, thanks so much for the opportunity.
Jeremy Cline 1:11
Jacques, first off, can you introduce yourself and tell us what it is you do?
Jacques Hopkins 1:15
My name is Jacques Hopkins and my main business is called Piano in 21 Days. Sounds like a scam. I promise you it's not. Got over 400 testimonials, never thought it would work this well. I was an electrical engineer for about eight years. I didn't hate my job like some people, I never loved it either - always liked the allure you know, the whole Four Hour Work week, Tim Ferriss model - online business, work for yourself. So I tried a few different business ideas and whatnot. Nothing ever really worked until I came up with this idea for an online piano course back in 2013. And it took me a few years to kind of make it work, make it profitable, but eventually it allowed me to quit my job about four years ago and now I'm proud to say that Piano in 21 Days is helping people all over the world learn piano. It also pays the bills for me and my family.
Jeremy Cline 2:04
Fantastic. You said that you neither hated nor loved your job. You mentioned Tim Ferriss's book - so what sparked you into first reading that and then deciding you were going to implement it rather than reading it and thinking, 'that's interesting' and just putting in to one side and then carrying on with the day job.
Jacques Hopkins 2:22
I have no idea. I cannot remember what made me want to read the book. It's a pretty sexy title, it kind of makes you want to read it. I have no idea - given where I was at the time - why I would read a book like that. And to kind of give some context why would say that, my whole life I thought I was going to be an engineer - ever since first grade and my teacher said I was good at math, she's like, you need to be an engineer - before I even knew what that was, I always thought I was going to be an engineer. And sure enough, I was. I went to school to be an engineer. I started in engineering, I did AP Calculus in high school and all that - my whole life was pointing toward being an engineer. I picked that book up my senior year of college. I was just about to graduate with my degree in engineering, and it just opened up a whole new world for me that I didn't even realise existed. Before reading that book, when I thought about entrepreneurship and starting my own business, I thought it had to be like brick and mortar store, take out all these loans, like have a bunch of employees, a lot of risk, a lot of headache. And when I read that book, I was like, Huh - it doesn't have to be like that. I don't remember why I picked it up. But I do remember that that just created a total paradigm shift inside my head. And from that moment forward, even though it was my senior year of college, I already had my job lined up. I knew that I wanted to try to make something like that work. And even if it ended up being like just a side hustle where maybe it earned an extra $500-1,000 a month where we could maybe travel a little bit more, something like that, that would have been okay - that would have been better than nothing. The dream would have been to be able to quit my job. I read the book, I had the paradigm shift right before I started working and it took years later for something to actually work enough to quit. But all the while as I'm working that full time job as an electrical engineer, I'm trying to implement the things that I had read in Four Hour Work Week - and of course since I've read it many times over. Piano in 21 Days is probably the sixth or seventh different thing that I tried. That's how many failed attempts it took for me to find something that would actually work.
Jeremy Cline 4:20
Okay, I'd like to talk a bit more about what you tried in the meantime. Before we get there, you mentioned this paradigm shift. What was it that was in The Four Hour Work Week that appealed to you? What was it that it said that made you think, no, I don't want to be working, I don't want to be an electrical engineer, I don't want to have a paid job, I want to do this?
Jacques Hopkins 4:40
It's been a few years since I've read it now, but I think right at the beginning, he starts talking about all the cool things that he's done. He talks about his salsa dancing in Buenos Aires and riding motorcycles and just travelling all over the world and doing these cool things, learning languages, all the while making money from a passive business and it not being a big headache, and so it just opened up a whole different side of entrepreneurship that I didn't even know existed. It's not that I knew it existed and I just didn't think I could ever do it. It's that I didn't know it existed. And so once I learned that it existed, I was like, Yeah, I can do this. Let me dedicate everything I've got to be able to do this myself as well. Maybe not to the type of level of, say, Tim Ferriss, but to a level that I could get to where it can replace and hopefully exceed income as an electrical engineer, but also give me that freedom that I want and be able to travel whenever I want to, you know - take off the day without having to go to a boss for permission. You know, one of the first things that we did as a family whenever I quit my job is we went to France and lived there for three months just because we could for the first time in our lives! We have this freedom, let's do something with it. My oldest daughter was 10 months old at the time and went over there. Of course we didn't stay there, we're back in the states now but we go visit all the time, we travel whenever we want to I take days off whenever I want to - and it's exactly what I hoped it would be.
Jeremy Cline 5:57
When you were starting out you said you'd tried about six different businesses or so. Let's not go into all six of them, but can you give us an idea of the sorts of things that you tried, and maybe the reasons why they didn't take off or why they didn't become the thing that has now given you financial freedom?
Jacques Hopkins 6:14
I used the Four Hour Work Week as a blueprint to try to get there. As I've said, I liked what I was hearing in terms of the outcome, what he was able to do and what other people he helped was able to do. So I was like, I'm going to do exactly what he says. And a lot of the advice he gives is actually for kind of physical products. I think he's got an example in there about a T-shirt company or a business you could create. And then he used an example of somebody shipping out CDs or something. So to start with, my mind was stuck on some sort of physical product. I know one thing that I was working on before Apple TV came out and fire sticks and Rokus and all that - shortly before that, it was pretty cool to be able to turn your TV into like a computer. They were called HTPCs, home theatre personal computers. So I kind of built one just using computer parts and everything and started marketing and online and created a brand and everything, but it was over $1,000 to buy one of these and I sold exactly zero of them. Then shortly thereafter, things like Apple TV started coming out, which were way better products because they're way more affordable, and it's not just like Windows sitting there on your TV, it's actually an interface that's designed for a TV. That's an example of a physical product business that I tried to make. But then I mean, then you have to actually ship it out to people and margins aren't that great and all that. So I decided the physical product businesses probably not for me. I tried a couple of different blogs. In fact, one blog that I created was somewhat kind of led into Piano in 21 Days. I started a blog, it was called OneChangeaMonth.com and I was going to work on one thing every month, just kind of change one thing or try one new thing every month and blog about it every day. And with that one, I realised that I'm not writer and writing is not for me. Not being a writer doesn't go very well with blogging. But one reason that you know, 21 days started is that - I think it was March of 2013 and that's the year that I started that blog - I was procrastinating working on it. I wasn't doing it daily, I was working, I was doing other things instead of what I thought I should be doing, which was work on the business. And what I was procrastinating with was playing my piano. So instead of working on my business, in the evenings after work, I was just drained, I didn't have any energy left - I would procrastinate with piano. And it just kind of struck me one day, that if this is what I turn to when I kind of don't really want to do anything else, I wonder if I could make a business out of this some kind of way. I was working on the one change a month thing at the time - I think it was either March or April - that's what I'm going to do, that's my theme for this month - it's going to be to make an online piano course. And as it turns out, it wasn't really something I could do in a month. It took quite a bit longer than that, but I just punted on that blog as I should have, and then Piano in 21 Days just kind of became my thing from then on. That's just kind of a couple of examples of things that didn't work - and none of those ventures until Piano in 21 Days ever made a single dollar.
Jeremy Cline 9:06
How did you learn piano out of interest? Was it the traditional just having lessons, someone teaching you, trying to do some practice, probably not doing any practice, being told off for not doing any practice... I say this is a fellow musician! Was that the kind of route that you followed?
Jacques Hopkins 9:21
You nailed it, you know what you're talking about! Because you know my parents put me in lessons when I was five years old. So I was a pretty quiet kid, always trying to please people, especially my parents, even though I didn't like the lessons I stuck with it. I stuck with it for about 12 years. So from the age of 5 to 17, I took piano lessons. But as you mentioned, you know, a lot of times when kids take piano lessons, they don't like practice, they're not really into it. One day, I just realised that after 12 years of piano lessons, literally, if I go sit down with piano, like I knew how to play two songs, and I didn't even like those two songs. That's when, you know, we talked about paradigm shifts earlier - about the Four Hour Work Week - that was a big paradigm shift for me in my relationship with the piano and piano lessons. For 12 years, putting all that time and effort in - by time and effort I mean the actual lessons because I didn't practice a lot - having to be able to play two songs that I don't even like... Is it really worth it? But fortunately, I didn't quit piano, I just quit piano lessons. And, you know, used kind of that left brain engineer mind of mine and really tried to figure out a different way to play piano. And so the way that I play now and teach now is formula based, there's no sheet music. It's kind of my own way to learn to play piano, which is one of the reasons that this whole thing has worked, because it's kind of a unique and fresh approach. It's got to be simpler than normal methods, because I'm promising 21 days. It's quite a promise, but it certainly does work. That's kind of my relationship with the piano and when it all started, was back when I was five years old.
Jeremy Cline 10:43
When did you discover that courses were a thing? Leaving aside piano teaching, or did the piano come first? And you discovered that that was a medium that you could use for your teaching? When did you discover this world of online courses? Because I think a lot of people don't really know of their existence, and certainly not as a way of teaching musical instruments.
Jacques Hopkins 11:05
Well, far more people know about it today in 2020 than they did back in 2013 when I when I first got the idea. I really didn't know it was a thing or possible until probably that day that everything clicked when I was sitting at my piano. Part of the question you were asking was, I didn't actually teach anybody piano in person before I took it to an online course. I just kind of played, it was a hobby of mine. And that's not how I'd recommend people go about creating online courses today. Hopefully you do have some success stories of actually sharing this information in person or maybe one on one through a call like this, like zoom or Skype or something. I learned about online courses pretty much that night. It was like a total fate moment in my life. That same day, when I came home from work, I thought I should be working on my blog. And instead of working on my blog, I was playing the piano, procrastinating with the piano - that very, very same night I was listening to podcasts. I'm sure you're familiar with the Smart Passive Income podcast with Pat Flynn, and that episode that he released that day was with a guy who had created an online piano course. And in fact, I just interviewed that guy for my podcast yesterday. I know the guy pretty well now, his name is Steve Nixon. His focus is jazz piano. He was being interviewed by Pat Flynn that day on how he took this knowledge of jazz piano and all this experience and packaged it up in an online course, and sold it and had this wildly successful launch and did very well with online courses. So when I was sitting at my piano, realising, hey, let me make a business out of this some kind of way, it didn't all come together until that night, I was like, 'Oh, an online piano course - that's perfect!' And, you know, the rest is history from there.
Jeremy Cline 12:43
So people often talk about not starting something because it's never quite the right time. And you know, you realise after a while that there's never a perfect time, the stars just don't align and you've just got to get on with it because you're never going to get to that perfect moment. But in your case, it sounded like the stars really didn't align, you were playing around on your piano, you happened to listen to the podcast about teaching piano online, and suddenly the whole thing clicks and you decide, hey, I'm going to do this.
Jacques Hopkins 13:14
I think the stars aligned for me from an idea perspective. I had no shortage of actual ideas, it's just that none of them were a good fit for me. I was pursuing different things through the years as I was working my full time job, but the stars did align for me with particular idea - but it would have never all come together if I hadn't failed all those many times. So I think the key is to make a decision for yourself whether you are going to pursue your own business, your own side hustle, something like that, and then don't be afraid to fail and punt and move on to the next idea because I think eventually, whether it's the second time, or the sixth or seventh time or the 15th time - I think eventually people get it.
Jeremy Cline 13:58
You mentioned the technique which you now teach. How long have you been working on that technique for learning to play this with the engineering technique that you mentioned before you started the course?
Jacques Hopkins 14:09
It's a little bit of a blur. I started finding this other way to learn piano, probably when I was 18 years old, and I discovered this world of chords and playing piano with guitar chords instead of from sheet music and then using improvisation to kind of fill in notes. And I just couldn't believe that that world was out there, because for 12 years all I knew was sheet music and memorization. I started playing in the band in my church and then just kind of a secular band with friends when I went off to college, brought a keyboard with me there. And so it was just a hobby, really, for several years. And then probably in my early 20s or so I started putting some pop songs on YouTube, but from the time that I learned about this different approach and started refining it to actually starting an online course, we're looking at probably seven or eight years there.
Jeremy Cline 14:58
You've got the technique and you've got this 'aha' moment, I should do an online course. How did you go about starting to design an online course? I mean, did you know anything about even where to begin when you had that aha moment, apart from listening to the podcast?
Jacques Hopkins 15:14
So just to be clear, you're asking me, what are the steps that I took not what steps should I have taken? Right?
Jeremy Cline 15:21
I'd like to find out about the steps that you took, because it sounds like you've been quite successful with what you did, even if you're saying that it's not what you should do. And I think that'll be something to explore a little bit later on. But first of all, you've decided that you want to do an online course - what steps did you take in order to do that?
Jacques Hopkins 15:37
Well, I certainly did some things right. But I did plenty wrong as well. Starting an online course, starting it, creating it and all that as far easier today than it was back in early 2013. And the main reason for that is because a lot of online tools and services exist and they're easier to use today than they were back then. Today, if you're going to create an online course I recommend you host your course on one of four biggest platforms for hosting courses, Thinkific, Teachable, Kajabi and Click Funnels. I personally like Click Funnels, that's where my courses are. Back then, I don't think any of those existed. Maybe a couple of them were in their very, very infancy. But when I was doing my research, I couldn't find any of those and I couldn't find really any good solutions. Steve Nixon talked about what he was using in that interview with Pat Flynn, but it wasn't great and it didn't work for me. Even just finding a place to host my course back then just was infuriatingly difficult. Just to set the stage for one example of the difference between if you're going to do things today versus back then - I had a YouTube channel because I put some videos out there without thinking business, but I started putting some more videos I created, you know, registered domain pianoin21days.com, and I put up a freebie email opt in there, and I knew about that because of listening to the Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn, that podcast. I put up the first five days of my course, I kind of designed that first and I put that in a PDF - I was like, guys, I'm working on the course right now, but if you want to go ahead and try the first five days of the course, download it here, and I'll email you whenever the course is available. So I knew about that strategy only because of the podcast. And then as I was making YouTube videos and putting YouTube videos out there, I knew because of the podcast I'm sure, to also have a call to action at the end. And at the end of all my YouTube videos I'd say, guys, if you want to learn more I've got this free workbook waiting for you over at pianoin21days.com, so go ahead and download that if you want to learn more. That's what I did. I would say it took about eight months, probably from when I got the idea to when I actually launched my course. And I'm a little embarrassed that it took so long, but it wasn't easy. I lacked motivation at times, hit roadblocks, hit obstacles, but the good thing about it taking that long is all the while I was building up an email list - if not big by any stretch of the imagination - so I developed it over time, and basically I just kind of wrote it out in text and image form first, and then that was good because I was able to include that full 21 day workbook, kind of as a bonus when somebody bought the course. And then once it came time to actually record the course, I used that as my, essentially my script, and just went about recording all the videos, and editing the videos and did everything myself at first. So I had to learn how to edit videos, and then finding a place to host it because you need a way for people to only be able to access the premium content with username and password and all that, figure out how to get people to pay me money through the internet, figure out what I'm going to do when it's actually available. So those are kind of the broad steps that I took between when I got the idea and when I first launched the course back in late 2013.
Jeremy Cline 18:41
So you mentioned that it taken you eight months to put together and you'd gone through periods of lacking motivation. What kept you going to ultimately doing it?
Jacques Hopkins 18:52
I think one of the biggest things that kept me going is that I was getting positive feedback mostly from the YouTube channel. People would leave comments below my videos saying that it was really helpful, they were learning and that they did want to learn more. Or if people would go to the website and actually download the free workbook, sometimes people would reply and say it was good, they enjoyed it, looking forward to it. That's huge, because you know that what you're putting out there for the world - people are actually getting something out of it and it's not just going out there to the sound of crickets. That's one of the reasons that today I recommend people put free content out there, hopefully helpful content, maybe before launching an online course like in a podcast or any YouTube channel, so that we can see where we're going, where you should go, and start listening to the feedback that you're getting from people in terms of what they most need help with.
Jeremy Cline 19:40
You mentioned when we were talking about Four Hour Work Week that you were looking for something which might provide you with a bit of extra cash, you know, maybe a bit of extra to go travelling or help pay the bills or whatever. At what point did you think this might become something which could effectively sustain you enable you to quit your job?
Jacques Hopkins 20:01
Eventually, I got to the point with my job where, you know, I was making a few hundred dollars on the side, it's like, you know, I could just five x this or 10 x this... that's all it would take. And eventually we got to a point where we had worked really hard and paid off our mortgage and we didn't have any other debt and we were living modestly, and Piano in 21 Days was bringing in about $1,000 a month and we had some additional savings as well. So because neither my wife nor myself are big risk takers, it took all of those things to say okay, now's the time when we can really do it. That's what it took, just having no debt at all including the house, very little expenses and showing promise, you know, I mentioned Piano in 21 days was bringing in about $1,000 a month - not enough for us to live on, but that's kind of when we made the decision to Hey, let's see where this can go. It's kind of a catch 22 because I felt like I could grow it, but I didn't have the time I needed to grow it, right? So fortunately we were able to put ourselves in the position for me to be able to quit my job, spend the time I needed to grow it, and obviously it worked out once I had the time.
Jeremy Cline 21:03
So at that point, you had a fair degree of confidence that you could grow it to something which was going to go beyond $1,000 a month, and be enough to live off?
Jacques Hopkins 21:12
Jeremy Cline 21:13
What was your plan B?
Jacques Hopkins 21:14
To go back to work! Yeah, I mean, I have a degree in engineering. I actually, in my early 20s, got an MBA as well. That was another part of not being a big risk taker. That's one of the things that Tim Ferriss talks about in Four Hour Work Week that I love - he says, when you're trying to make a big decision, let's think about it in terms of best case scenario, worst case scenario, say let's put that on a scale of 1 to 10. So as I was thinking about should I quit my job or not, I thought about it like that. Okay, what's the best case scenario? Best case scenario is it works. I make more money than I was making as an engineer. I love it. I help people all over the world, learn how to play piano, I get the freedom I want, we can travel whenever we want, and we just love our lives. Best case. That's a 10 out of 10. Worst case scenario, it never grows past 1,000, probably goes backwards, we have enough savings to live pretty frugally for a year of it not working. So after a year, I go back to work and live the life that I was already living. So that's like, we'll call it a five. So worst case scenario is a five or maybe a six, it's not that bad. But best case is a 10 out of 10, it was totally worth any risk - to risk that potential 5 or 6 to get a potential 10.
Jeremy Cline 22:27
I love that way of thinking, especially the worst case, because if someone started at the worst case that it could be this doesn't work and I lose all my money and I lose the house and I end up homeless. But when you think about it, that's not necessarily the risk. There's always the possibility of going back into the workforce and getting a job.
Jacques Hopkins 22:46
We also set ourselves up for this as well. So if I would've quit my job two years sooner, for example, then there would have been far more risks, right? Maybe we could have lost the house, because we had waited to the point where we had paid off our mortgage and had additional savings to live off of.
Jeremy Cline 23:03
Do you wish that you had taken the decision two years earlier to go all in on it?
Jacques Hopkins 23:08
Yes. [Laughs] I mean knowing now, it's not fair because I know what it has become. But I mean if we play that game then I'd say okay, I wish I would have you know, at 18 years not gone to college and started this business back in 2004 where would it be today? And think about all the time I potentially wasted so I mean, that's a never ending game there Jeremy I would say!
Jeremy Cline 23:29
That's fair enough. That's a good point. Piano in 21 Days I gather is kind of fully automated, relatively automated, how much work is involved say on a weekly basis on Piano in 21 days?
Jacques Hopkins 23:41
Well, it's hard to ever get fully and completely automated but we're pretty close at this point. You know, the course exists so people can buy it. You can't just go to Pianoin21days.com and buy it. There's a whole funnel involved in basically that workbook or the first five days - you know, it's been updated many times, but that's still the preview and works really well, and it's really helpful for people. Once you download that and get your email address all the marketing and selling and additional free material comes via email. So all the sales happen via email, but that's obviously all automated. I use Active Campaign for emails, that's all automated. I use things like Zapier to integrate things that don't normally integrate - that helps with automation as well. I do have a couple of team members that help me with customer support and other things that help me stay out of the business as much as possible. So I'm at a point where I can just kind of oversee everything and really, you know, I like to think of it as it's just this machine that just runs on one side, you know, people kind of come into it, and on the other side, sales happen and success happens on the other side. And my job at this point is just to make sure the machine runs. And if at any point anything is broken inside the machine it's my job to go in and troubleshoot, and fix what's going on. I would say it's about 99% automated at this point.
Jeremy Cline 24:56
Okay, so in terms of hours per week say, that you're working on Piano in 21 Days. What do you reckon, rough estimate?
Jacques Hopkins 25:03
One to two?
Jeremy Cline 25:05
One to two hours a week?
Jacques Hopkins 25:06
Jeremy Cline 25:07
Wow. So what do you do with the rest of your time?
Jacques Hopkins 25:10
What a great question. I was able to ask myself that question a couple of years ago. So I quit my job about four years ago and then I spent a full time job's hours on Piano in 21 Days. After about a year I kind of built it up to the income that I had left at my job and maybe even a little more. But what I realised is Oh, but I'm kind of working like a crazy person. l found myself just responding to emails and customer support and social media messages and YouTube messages like four-six hours a day, plus I had to do additional things and that's not what I wanted either. Once I had built up the income then what came next was the outsource. Then I started outsourcing a lot of that and that took probably another year to get processes in place and the right people in place and whatnot. After that, man, it was great. You know, I had a good income coming in, I didn't have to work very much on it. And it was helping people. And it was just phenomenal. So I got to ask myself that question about two years ago. It's like, okay, now what do I want to do with my life? Because to be honest with you, Jeremy, like, piano is not something I'm like crazy passionate about. There's piano teachers out there who live, eat, breathe piano, and that's great for them. I love how many people that I've helped learn piano and I continue to love that, but it's not necessarily, you know, my top passion in this world. I got to ask myself that question. And what I realised a couple years ago is I love this whole world of online courses. I wonder if I can just kind of take my background and what I've learned with Piano in 21 Days, and just help people with online courses as well, because I certainly had my struggles and I would have loved some help along the way. When I did finally launch my piano course back in 2013 I made one sale initially, and I thought I was going to be a success because all the stories of all my courses you hear on the Smart Passive income and other podcasts are these wild success stories. So I thought why wouldn't mine be this wild success story as well? And eventually it's pretty successful, but it certainly wasn't overnight. So I was able to ask myself that a couple years ago, I decided I wanted to just help people with online courses. The main way that I've done that and continue to do that is through a podcast, which has been around for a couple years now, which is called The Online Course Show - very original, but it's straight to the point. I don't really offer much like for sale with this kind of brand, I rely more on affiliate income, which is a nice business model as well. Whereas with the piano side of my business, all the income is from core sales. And over here on this brand, which I called the Online Course Guy, when you create an online course there's a lot of software tools that you have to sign up for to make it really possible. And so if I can put a lot of free content out there and say, Hey, guys, to do this, I recommend you know, this software to do this. I recommend this, you know, people trust me and sign up for those and so that's really the business model. On this side. It's working out well for me and my audience over here as well.
Jeremy Cline 28:00
Do you have plans that The Online Course Guy will evolve beyond just the podcast and the affiliate marketing? Do you see yourself doing courses about courses? Or is it enough for you to be doing what you're doing just with the podcast?
Jacques Hopkins 28:15
So I've got the podcast and then within that is affiliate marketing. Now I do have a course on courses as well, but it's free. It's free. And I tell people up front Hey, guys, this is free because there are many products within this course as we go through this process that you're probably going to want to sign up for. If you want to sign up for them anyway I'd appreciate in exchange for me giving you this course for free that you sign up for them using my affiliate link. So that's just kind of part of the whole business model.
Jeremy Cline 28:42
Okay, so what's the medium term say three, five year plan for The Online Course Guy? I mean, what's what's the sort of shelf life of it? You know, it's clearly something you enjoy. How long do you think that's going to keep you going?
Jacques Hopkins 28:56
Well I don't think that online courses are going anywhere. I think they're only getting bigger and bigger every year, which means more and more people are going to be looking for help with online courses. And I just want to be a guy that people can go to and find who has succeeded with online courses in a niche that doesn't teach people how to make money. So a lot of the people out there that have courses on courses or teaching online courses, they haven't necessarily succeeded in online courses in a non lucky money making niche, right? It's kind of a meta thing to think about. But because I've been able to succeed, crossed over seven figures at this point with Piano in 21 Days - in total sales, probably about 1.3 million in sales over the past seven years. Now I feel like that's pretty good credentials to be able to teach this stuff, and I think that really resonates with people because so many people just want to teach how to play guitar or how to, you know, write short stories or how to cut hair. I mean, just so many random niches out there that people want to create online courses for and if they can learn from somebody who's done that in a non money making niche that can be appealing, so I'm going to keep doing that. I'm going to keep putting out podcast episodes and YouTube videos, try to get people to keep signing up for my free course and just helping people any way I can and continue to make it a win-win where I'm helping people putting out free content, they're signing up for my affiliate offers, and it's just a total ultimate win-win.
Jeremy Cline 30:19
What about the people who charge for courses about courses. Have you had any comment from them, any people going 'Hang on a minute, you're teaching people for free what I charge people for?'
Jacques Hopkins 30:32
You can charge a lot for a course on courses, just like you can charge a lot more for any course that's going to teach you how to make money. My price range for my piano courses - there's three different levels you can sign up for. It's either $100, $300, $500 - which is actually on the higher end of the spectrum. There's a lot of piano courses out there that are $20, $40 - even $100 would seem more on the high end. And my most popular package is actually my $500 course, but that's because I've been able to properly frame the whole thing and really show people what the value is there. Now there's plenty of people teaching people how to do online courses, and they'll charge $1,000, $2,000, $5,000 for that. And in a lot of cases, it's worth that much money. And I've seen a lot of those courses and a lot of them are fantastic. I mean, just to name a few people, I know Daniel Leslie has a course on courses that's phenomenal. Dan Henry, David Siteman Garland, Amy Porterfield - a lot of big name people that you probably recognise. All their courses are phenomenal. That's great. I hope that my course is phenomenal as well and it's just that mine's at a little bit less of a price point, so it's just to teach the road. There are advantages too of charging a higher price for a course, and that is even more motivation for somebody to actually go through it. That was my biggest hesitation in offering my course for free. Now at first I did offer it for you know, a thousand dollars, $997, and I made several sales that way but I just kind of rethought the whole business model, and this is working even better. But that's one of the reasons I charged a certain high price for my piano courses - it gives people that extra motivation to actually take the course. If you buy a $20 piano course versus a $500 piano course, well, if you buy the $20 one, well, it's like, 'I'll spend $20 on it, I'll get to it later. If I never get to it, it's not that big of a deal.' But if you spend $500 on it, it's like, 'Wow, I spent $500 on this, I better actually take action on it.' Or maybe you have a spouse, that's like 'You spent $500 on this, you better sit your butt at the piano and actually go through this course.' So you could say the same thing about an online course course, right? If you spend $3,000 on an online course course, well, then that may be more motivation to actually stick with it, go through it. Whereas if you get one for free, it's like, well, I could just sign up for anything that's free and then later I'll either use it or not use it. That's certainly something I'm considering. My course may not always be free, but I will say so far, so good. I mean, it's been free for probably a year, and I think it's serving people more than not serving people with that price point.
Jeremy Cline 33:05
With all these figures bandying about, you know what people can charge for a course, and numbers of sales and that sort of thing, I can see that there's a risk of - depending which side of the pond they're in - dollar signs or pound signs kind of scooting through their eyes. I can see the appeal of this. And people might be listening to this and thinking, 'Wow, that's a brilliant idea. I should do an online course.' I guess I've got two questions. Where do you start? And also, is there a sort of a pause for thought that maybe you should think about one or two things before you decide that you're going to launch an online course?
Jacques Hopkins 33:38
At the end of the day, are you asking is an online course for everybody?
Jeremy Cline 33:41
Yeah, I think I am. And if you decide you want to do it, where you start, but I think the first question is it for everybody?
Jacques Hopkins 33:48
I don't know. I don't know. I think on some level, everybody has something that they can help other people with. On another level, I don't think everybody is currently in their current situation, ready to handle that level of responsibility and actually put in the work to run a business. I go both ways. I don't want to demotivate somebody and tell them that they're not a good fit. I think if they put in the work that they can find a topic out there they can genuinely help somebody with, now not every topic you're going to be able to make a million dollars from or you know, make $5,000 a month, £1000 pounds a month. But hey, some people are content with just a little part time extra income from online courses. And if it's mostly passive, then that's great. The worst thing you can do is try it out and it not work. You know, for me, blogging didn't work, physical products didn't work, other things didn't work. But I had to go through those to find that an online course was the perfect fit for me. Maybe you have to go through trying an online course to find out that's not for you, and maybe one of those other things is. Obviously there's very successful bloggers out there. Obviously physical products can be successful or we wouldn't have physical things around us. At the end of the day, you know, try it, see if it's going to work, and obviously if you want to try it - you asked about the steps to get there - I'm biased, but you know, I've got steps that can help people. And now, I'd recommend you start with the podcast that I have, over 100 episodes in now, and it's just called The Online Course show, like I said earlier.
Jeremy Cline 35:12
One of the phrases that you use, 'if you've got something that you can help other people with', I think that's got to be key as well. You've got to have a real desire to want to help people solve particular problems or do a particular thing rather than just, I'm going to do a course on helping people learn Esperanto or something like that, when you know, I know nothing about Esperanto. It's got to be something that I'm genuinely interested in helping other people with.
Jacques Hopkins 35:39
Not only that, Jeremy, but I'll take it a step further and say that on some level, it's your moral duty to share with the world. If I would have never created Pianoin21days.com, there are hundreds of people out there that may have never actually learned how to play piano. Just to give you one example, I've got a testimonial video on my website where this girl is talking about how her father had passed away, and she was just in a really dark time. He really loved to play the piano, and she didn't know how she was going to get through navigating her father's death. And she had his piano and she's like, well, maybe I can, you know, learn to play it. And she had tried already to learn to play it when he was alive, did different traditional methods. And she came across my stuff and she learned to play, she learned to play very quickly. And ishe says in the video, how gave her this calm about getting through her father's death. I'm not saying that she definitely wouldn't have learned piano without my stuff, but it's possible that she wouldn't. And she did. And it's more than just piano, right. It's life in general. And I was talking to a guy the other day, he's wondering if he should put together an online course or not, and his topic that he thinks people he can help people with, is he feels like he's really good at helping divorced men avigate that, with all the finances and all the things you have to think about via a course that they could go through and just make sure they're getting everything right post divorcing, and able to come out on the other side on top. And he hasn't really taken a lot of action. He's just kind of wishy washy, not sure. I'm like, Look, people out there need this. I promise you, people out there need this, and if you don't put it out there you are holding that back from people and that's why you know, I used the words moral duty earlier. On some level, it's your moral duty to put this information out there to the world so that you can actually help them with things like that.
Jeremy Cline 37:35
Regular listeners will know that I always ask a guest for a particular resource. You've already given me about 12 I think, so you've got Four Hour Work Week, you've got Smart Passive Income, you've got Zapier, you've got about four different online course things. Is there anything else you want to add to the mix?
Jacques Hopkins 37:51
I haven't even named my number one recommended resource. That's a book you see sitting on the shelf behind me - you see it Jeremy, I'm sure people listening on audio aren't gonna be able to see it through their headphones - but it's a book called Expert Secrets. And it's written by the guy who created Click Funnels, which is the software I use to host my course, and it does other things for me as well. I don't think the name of the book truly does it justice because even I, when I picked it up, didn't really know what the topic of the book was. That book might as well be called the best way to be successful an market and sell an online course - it's all about succeeding with online courses. The reason it's called Expert Secrets is because he says that you are an expert in something, and in the book he helps you to package up that expert knowledge and sell it in an online course. So as far as books go, there's no resource that I recommend more than Expert Secrets. In fact, you know, I mentioned my online course is free. Well, there's there's actually one small catch is I make people buy that book before they get entrance into my course. That's how much I actually love that book. And I reference it many times throughout my course.
Jeremy Cline 38:56
Fantastic. I will put a link to that and all the other resources in the show notes. And what's the best way to find you?
Jacques Hopkins 39:01
The OnlineCourseGuy.com, Pianoin21Days.com, and then The Online Course show.
Jeremy Cline 39:08
Brilliant. This has been a world which I think is going to be quite mysterious to most people. So thank you so much for coming on and introducing people to this world and enlightening us.
Jacques Hopkins 39:19
Well thank you, Jeremy, you asked some very insightful and just good questions. So I appreciate you having me on and for a wonderful conversation.
Jeremy Cline 39:26
Thank you very much, I appreciate it.
I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jacques Hopkins. That's really quite an incredible story. And it just goes to show that you can make a living through quite an unconventional means - at least something which at the moment is pretty unconventional. It's not a day job, it's creating a product which you can automate, which you can leave running and which you just have to maintain from time to time. There's two points which I took away from Jacques' story. One is that the lifestyle that he describes, well, it's possible if you want it, and the point is that Jacques did want it. He'd read The Four Hour Work Week, it had inspired him, he'd seen a way that he could live, and he took action to achieve that, even if he had a few failures on the way. The second point is an echo of what you may remember Olly Johnson said back in Episode 16. He said that if you find yourself putting effort into something and that something isn't your work, it's not your day job, or it's not how you make your money - maybe it's telling you that you should try making that your work, that thing that you're doing when you should be doing something else? It was procrastinating on the piano that made Jacques realise that he had a skill he could use and he could turn into a business. It highlights the point that it's really worth looking at what you enjoy doing, what you're good at and thinking, hmm, is there something here that I can offer to people? You'll find the show notes for this episode on the Change Work Life website, which is changeworklife.com/28 and I'd love it if you'd share this episode on social media. You'll find on the show notes page for this episode, there's some links so you can share the episode on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and it would be great if you'd share it. I'd love if you enjoyed this episode, if you think you've gotten something out of it, if you could share it, and hopefully other people will as well. Next week's episode is about a really important topic but something that a lot of people find a real challenge, and that's how to have difficult conversations at work. I can't wait to see you then. It's gonna be a good one. Cheers.
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